If you have read the venerable children’s book, Paddle to the Sea, then you can understand how frustrating it can be to get a piece of content out the door.
In Paddle, a boy carves a wooden guy in a canoe and releases it. The book tells the tale of the carving’s trip down rivers, across the Great Lakes and, four years later, into the ocean
My friend Joanie has finally seen her version of a carved canoe (which looks a lot like a white paper about clinical best practices for whatever nasty pharma product she’s peddling), hit the ocean
Joanie’s paper took her about two weeks to write. She checked her references, blew the sawdust off and chucked it into Approval Creek, where the current caught it, whirled it around a few times and sent on its way to the Product Team. A few curious product managers stopped jumping at flies long enough to inspect it and then went back to the cool depths of their Gantt charts. Joanie waited as it snagged on the log jam of the Group Product Manager’s backlog. Five weeks and three escalations later, it bobbed to the surface with a couple of revisions, some questions about fonts and a cough drop stuck to it.
On it went to the slow eddy where the designers added some fun charts and graphs before it went off the cliff and into the punishing Class V misery that is the legal review. This bit often ends, as Paddle nearly did, in a sawmill.
In Joanie’s case, what emerged at the far end was a battered old thing with more redactions than a Senate expense report. By the time she negotiated some personality and joy back into the thing, it was a well-illustrated apology with three pages of footnotes. But dammit, it was content, and that, apparently, is what B2B marketing is all about.
Too bad Joanie’s hard-won paper will join the 60-70 percent of B2B content that Sirius Decisions says sales never uses. I don’t have the heart to tell her, but I’m fairly sure when she figures it out, she will wonder, as we all do, why our Squirrels beg and plead for content, which they promptly ignore. Here is my theory, and, surprise, it’s not really a Squirrel problem.
The first reason they don’t use new content is that they don’t understand it. Face it, most marketers are pretty terrible at deploying content. We figure that after so long in the water, everyone knows about it and they all have our intimate understanding of its intent, value and proper use. So we fling it at sales as if they were expecting it all along. Posting a piece of content onto your sales portal or intranet, is about as effective as not writing it at all.
Joanie is a good marketer and this white paper is not her first rodeo. Years ago, the birth of a new white paper in her world would have been met with at least a bit of pageantry: a fancy roll-out, a kind email from a Corporate Overlord, perhaps. Now it’s just another meal deal combo from the content drive-thru. Joanie dealt with this by holding a webinar to educate her friends in sales about the white paper. Predictably, she heard crickets on her webinar instead of excited sales people.
I think we’ve discussed the need for marketing to market marketing to sales. If your Squirrels don’t believe your propaganda, how the hell are they supposed to get anyone else excited about it?
And we know that sales teams don’t like surprises very much either, which is why we need to make sure our content is on their radar while we’re still creating it. I’m pretty sure a webinar is overkill, but it never hurts to crash the weekly sales scrum and talk up your content plans. If that’s not your style, pay a visit to the Squirrel Kings and get them excited about the content, then keep feeding them updates so they can help you sell it to sales.
When Paddle finally got to the ocean, it slipped out the mouth of the St. Lawrence River looking, for all the world, like a piece of driftwood. Much of our content slips similarly unnoticed into the ocean of sales stuff. We need to find new ways to throw this stuff down with an audible amount of enthusiasm and a meaningful amount of direction if we expect content to earn its keep.
Despite all the preparation you’ve done, this thing you’ve been working with, honing, coaxing to life is brand new to your Squirrels and has about as much significance as your last note about updating the CRM database.
Remember, sales doesn’t hate your content, they just don’t understand it. Their brains are full of prices, discounting rules, open-ended questions and golf handicaps. How can you expect them to keep track of your latest infographic if they don’t know what it’s for and how it helps them?
I’m a fan of the crisp one-page overview, but however you roll it out, I promise, the 20 minutes you invest in helping your content make sense to a Squirrel, will make sure it doesn’t end up in the same sad file as their last team-building certificate.
Next time we’ll talk about the perils of letting our content get between our Squirrels and their nuts.